Wow! It’s January3. New Year’s came and went, and I didn’t even try to post a list of changes or reflections like I did last year. I guess I was just too busy partying. (And by partying, please know that I mean staying in my pajamas all day drinking obscene amounts of coffee and reading like a crazy person.) The truth is that 2013 was a fairly uneventful year for me. And that’s ok. I love my life, and I’m cool with nothing wild happening to change it. But who can make a whole NY blog post about hoping that things remain the same in 2014? How much fun is that?
I have been doing some thinking, however, about advice I need to follow, and what better time than the New Year to begin to follow advice? Plus advice to myself is so much less stressful than an actual resolution. All I can do is give it a shot, and if I fail, I’ll try again. So instead of posting unrealistic goals for myself this New Year, I’m going to expand on some tips I’ve been pondering and hope are worth passing along.
- It is okay to be different. This gem applies to both the majority and minority. Can you imagine how disgustingly boring life would be if everyone were the same? This year, I’ve seen a troubling number of people raging against people/ideas just because they’re different. Totally unnecessary stress, people. This world needs all kinds of people. I’ll use this example: I know a girl who is maybe the most conservative person I have ever met. We probably don’t agree on a single issue politically. Some of her core values make my head spin and my hair stand on end. But here’s the truth about this girl: She’s 100% genuine. She lives what she believes, and she has no selfish motives for believing these things. She never insults my beliefs, and she never pushes me. And I think that’s worthy of respect. I could sit and read her Facebook posts and get angry at her because she’s not like me, or I can appreciate that this world needs people like her in it just as much as it needs people like me. The bottom line is that the choice between fighting who she is and accepting that she’s still a beautiful person even though she’s not like me is mine. My choice. And I’m going to choose love her anyway. Accepting differences will only improve the way people treat one another.
- It is not okay to hate. How much of this have I seen lately? And hate is a tricky thing; it disguises itself many ways. I define hatred or hateful behavior the same way that my school defines bullying: any speech or action that has the intention of hurting another. That’s big. It doesn’t matter what you hate, it’s not productive. What good does it do to speak or act out in hatred? Of what use are the feelings of hatred we carry around with us? Every second of attention we give to something we feel negatively about is time that we could dedicate to what we love. So before we make that bold statement, post that propaganda, put that sticker on your car…could it be interpreted as hateful? Are we caring too much about what we’re against instead of what we’re for? Don’t be a hater. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
- Stop worrying about what other people think. This piece of advice comes from a very specific experience. Remember the Duck Dynasty post? It was, as I saw it, a reasonable appeal for people to stop placing so much importance on things that don’t really matter (such as Phil Robertson’s opinion on gay people). I did not let faming-liberal-hippy-Jamie write that one; it was (I thought) realistic-request-for-decency-Jamie. People seemed to like it…until friends of friends begin commenting on it, and I was called a weak Christian. I am certain that these people didn’t realize that the author of the post would be seeing their criticism; they rarely do, or they wouldn’t say it. Nevertheless, this really hurt my feelings. How could this girl who’s never met me assign me a failing faith grade based on one piece of writing? Was that the message I sent through my blog — that I’m nothing more than an opinionated quasi-Christian who has a way with words? And then some of the best advice came to me from a former student while we were casually visiting about it. She looked at me and said, “And you care what she says because….???” I’m sure at this point I got loud, and started talking fast while using my hands because that’s what I do when I’m fired up: “She called me a weak Christian because I think we should be nice to everyone and pay attention to what’s really important! She said that I don’t love Jesus! She doesn’t even know me!” And this sweet, wise, 17 year old girl put her hand on my 30 year old shoulder and said, “But you know the truth.” Wow. Yes. When we know the truth about what kind of people we really are, then what other people think stops mattering. Out of the mouths of babes. Don’t give other people power to hurt you with their opinions when you know yourself well enough to know the truth.
- Eliminate the negative. There are some people that bring out the worst in us, rub us the wrong way, make us feel small, suck out all our energy. I hate to use educational jargon, but the metaphor of the bucket is exactly what I’m talking about. When you leave people, you’ve either added to their bucket by enriching them, or taken from their bucket by reducing them. While the way we affect the buckets of others is definitely something to think about, I want to consider those I just mentioned — the ones who consistently take from my bucket time after time. What do we do about them? I don’t know if my answer is right, but I’m planning to avoid them. Hide them from my timeline, decline their invitations, refuse to take their bait. I cannot control the way they make me feel, but I can control my willingness to be a part of their negativity.
- Love, love, love. I am bizarre about his word. I bounce back and forth between using it too much and not enough. Some days I can go on and on about how I “love” coffee or “love” to read, but then I won’t tell my mom I “love” her when we get off the phone. I think this is because I’m assuming a lot. I assume that people know I love them because, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t spend time with them. I’ve always thought that I was the type of person who, when I love you, you know it. But lately I haven’t been so sure. We are responsible for letting the people we love know it — by our words and our actions. The same goes for what we “love” to do and who we “love” to spend time with. I want people to know who and what I love by the way I live my life. There should never be any question. Life is too short to do anything but to say and do what you truly love.
- Laugh. I don’t do this enough. I laughed until I cried in front of some students recently, and they looked at me like I’d grown an extra head. “Mrs. Bratton! That’s something you’ve never done before!” Really? I love to laugh. I love to try and find humor where there is none. I love that laughter is a reaction that can’t be forced because that makes it more precious when it happens. I think one of the best feelings is needing to laugh when you’re not really supposed to be laughing, which makes whatever was funny even funnier. This new year, I want to lend myself to more to moments of laughter. You cannot be worried, stressed, hateful, or sad while you laugh. In that laughing moment, there’s just….funny.
So I think I’ve covered my broad aspirations for 2014. I’m certain there’s plenty for people to find objectionable, and I’m ok with that. I know the truth. I hope for a great year with more opportunities to reflect than vent. And who can argue with that?